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Discipling Your Staff: Are You the Problem?

Discipling Your Staff: Are You the Problem?

Harry Chapin released a song in the mid ’70s called “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Perhaps you remember this folk song and its twist ending targeted at a generation of kids with absent, workaholic parents. A father wants time with his son, and his son is now too busy for him, just as he had been while his son was growing up. The resounding truth-bomb lyric echoes still today: “My son was just like me.” While this song certainly applies to families as much as it always has, I believe it also applies to staff relationships. The way we lead is replicated by those we lead. The challenges and struggles we have with those we lead are often reflections of our leadership. For example, a staff member procrastinates, and we get frustrated. But are they emulating our own procrastination? Have we modeled preparedness and urgency as an example?

Discipling Your Staff: Are You the Problem?

Regardless of the issues at hand let’s start with self-assessment before we move to chastise, discipline or even fire staff that serve with us. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, and we know just how frustrating many of them were. And let’s not forget, He let Judas hang around until the very end. It starts with discipling those we lead. Here are a few ways we can ensure we are examining our own lives first before we evaluate those we lead.

Own Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Leaders generally know their strengths. But few leaders like to admit their weaknesses. Most will suggest that they struggle in secondary areas, but when it comes to the big leadership issues, not so much. To disciple those you lead well, you must own your strengths and weaknesses. If you honestly want to know what areas you struggle with the most, just ask someone you trust. Nobody is perfect, but by owning our strengths and weaknesses, we communicate to our staff that we want to get better and that we understand that they will have issues as well. It will take humility, but it is worth the greater success as a leader.

Create a Transparent Environment

Transparency allows others into our lives and is a core concept of discipleship. It is almost impossible to truly engage in someone’s life for optimal impact without being transparent. While owning your strengths and weaknesses communicates that we are aware of our shortcomings and strong points, transparency provides a track upon which staff relationships travel. Willingness to be open with those we lead opens the door for them to be open with us. This kind of transparency is unusual but so worth the effort.

Prioritize Accountability

Transparency without accountability is reckless. Leading a church staff and not speaking the truth in love, is unbiblical. I believe so many broken staff relationships could have been salvaged if accountability had been in place. To effectively disciple your staff you must prioritize accountability with those you lead. Accountability is not a negative element; rather, it is the means by which we help one another grow toward godliness. Biblical accountability helps us sharpen one another as leaders, friends and ministers. Help your staff see that no one is above accountability. That means you will have to allow them to speak into your life at times as well. While this level of humility is very uncommon, it will help foster an incredible work environment, but even more importantly, it will help encourage a church staff that wants to be used by God to accomplish His will.

Sadly, in recent news, we have seen many famous church leaders fall in ministry. None of us are beyond the consequences of one bad decision or a series of small decisions over time. While our hearts are broken for these leaders, we must learn from their mistakes. By owning our strengths and weaknesses, creating a transparent environment, and prioritizing accountability, we can help build an environment for effectively discipling our staff.

This article originally appeared here.

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Chris Swain currently serves at Long Hollow Baptist Church as the Executive Director of Replicate Ministries. After fours years of service in the United States Marine Corps, Chris served in full-time ministry for 14 years in Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and Georgia, leading ministries ranging from Students, to Collegiate, to Spiritual Formation. Most recently, Chris served as the Director of Student Ministry Publishing at Lifeway Christian Resources serving the Church in its mission of making disciples. Chris’s heart is to expand the Gospel through disciple-making in the local church.